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Labor 'playing politics with cancer': govt

AAP logoAAP 13/09/2016

Labor has been accused of playing politics with cancer, potentially delaying the rollout of an improved cervical cancer test.

The federal government wanted legislation to establish a new national cancer screening register to pass parliament this week, in time for a new five-yearly cervical cancer test to be rolled out from May 2017, replacing the two-yearly pap smear.

But Labor and the Greens joined forces on Tuesday to send the bills to a Senate inquiry for further scrutiny, to report back on October 11.

Health Minister Sussan Ley launched a scathing attack, accusing the opposition of sending the bills into a vacuum.

Labor's "Mediscare" lies were bad enough, but playing politics with women's health was "inexcusable", she said.

She insists the bill doesn't need further scrutiny and that all members of parliament have been briefed on the legislation.

"What we have at risk here ... is screening for cervical cancer," she told reporters at Parliament House.

"If the leader of the opposition and his members have the interests of women's health at heart, then they will stop playing politics and get this legislation back in the parliament to be dealt with before the end of this week."

Manager of opposition business in the Senate Katy Gallagher said Labor supported the establishment of the register but had concerns about how it would work, given it will be administered by the for-profit Telstra Health.

The company will hold sensitive information such as contact details and cancer screening test results.

There were concerns about privacy and whether Telstra Health was up to the job, she said.

"There are legitimate reasons to believe the register is far too sensitive to conduct with their training wheels attached," Senator Gallagher said.

"This is uncharted territory - it deserves the fullest attention and scrutiny of our parliamentary processes."

The legislation will establish a new national register, replacing existing state and territory registers for cervical cancer and the bowel cancer screening system.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King says Labor will fight the plan to give private health data to a for-profit company, describing it as another attempt by the Turnbull government to privatise the health system.

She said Labor amendments would seek to ensure the register could only be operated by government or not-for-profit organisations.

"The government signed the contract despite no legislation having been passed to establish the national register, and they are now trying to rush through legislation without giving parliament the time to properly consider the implications of their hushed deal," she said.

"Why is the government determined to hand a for-profit provider control of Australians' most intimate health information, such as results of pap smears that allow inferences about a persons sexual status?"

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